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When Is an Example or Pattern Binding? Case Study: the Lord's Supper
By Timothy Sparks

1. The Lord's Supper is a joint participation among disciples and between disciples and Jesus (Mt. 26:29; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:27-33).

2. Jesus mentioned "the day that" he would drink the fruit of the vine again in his Father's kingdom (Mt. 26:29).
[Every instance of this phrase in the Greek New Testament refers to a twenty-four hour period: Mt. 13:1; 24:36; Mk. 13:32; 14:25; Lk. 10:12; 21:34; Jn. 1:39; 19:31; 20:19; Acts 2:41; 2 Thess. 1:10]

3. The joint participation is seen in the Father's kingdom. "They were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
"The teaching of the apostles" is joined to "the fellowship, the breaking of the bread" [Notice the definite articles in the Greek text, including before "breaking" and "bread." kai ("and") is before "the fellowship" and after "bread." There is no conjunction between "the fellowship, the breaking of the bread." Thus, the fellowship is the breaking of the bread (the Lord's Supper)].

4. "The day that" Jesus mentioned is specifically identified as "the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7), based on the disciples' and Paul's example.
Their specific purpose for "having been assembled" is "to break bread" (Acts 20:7). The Greek infinitive klasai ("to break," indicating purpose) is used only here in the NT. There is significant meaning for a first day assembly (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Since they gathered for the specific purpose "to break bread" on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), the definite article is not required to indicate that this is the Lord's Supper. The definite article is necessary in Acts 20:11 to distinguish "having broken the bread" (the Lord's Supper) from "having eaten" (a meal).

5. Christians are commanded to participate in the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
"As often as" indicates regular frequency; as regularly as there is a first day of the week. "You proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" indicates that participation in the Lord's Supper is to continue until Jesus comes.

Therefore Christians know (by command) to partake of the Lord's Supper and know (by example) when to partake of the Lord's Supper.

Some question whether they ate the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week. The issue is raised whether they were on Jewish time or Roman time. However, we know it was the first day of the week from the text. Are we in any way to suppose they did not actually accomplish what they had assembled to do within the specified time frame of the first day of the week? No. The day is stated, giving us the example to follow. So wherever we live and whatever the first day of the week is called and whatever the time frame of the first day of the week, it is still the first day of the week. The text is clear: "On the first day of the week, our having been assembled to break bread." We are to understand they came together and accomplished this purpose on the first day of the week. No other day of the week is mentioned for the assembling together for such a purpose.

What Is Jesus Saying in Mt. 5:32?

By Timothy Sparks

"But I say to you that everyone putting away his wife except on account of fornication causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is put away commits adultery" (Mt. 5:32).

My understanding of Mt. 5:32 is as follows:

1. Anyone who puts away his wife for any reason, other than fornication, causes her to commit adultery.

2. Anyone who puts away his wife for fornication does not cause her to commit adultery.

3. Any man who marries a woman who is put away commits adultery.

Proposition 1 clearly states that the practice of putting away one's wife has the ultimate effect of causing her to become an adulteress, given that she would inevitably remarry.

Proposition 2 states that if a man puts away his wife because she has committed fornication, then he would not cause her to become an adulteress since she made herself an adulteress by fornicating.

Proposition 3 appears to be an independent clause (a stand alone statement) indicating that any man who marries a woman who is put away commits adultery.

Jesus does not appear to be giving permission to put away or to remarry. He seems to be saying that a husband is to be blamed for causing his wife to commit adultery by putting her away. The only men who could not be blamed for their wives subsequently becoming adulteresses were those men whose wives had engaged in fornication. While the husband is not held accountable for his wife's fornication before he put her away, Jesus does not exonerate the husband from blame if his wife engages in fornication after he has put her away.

What Is Jesus Saying in Mt. 19:9?

By Timothy Sparks

"But I say to you that whoever puts away his wife not for fornication and marries another commits adultery" (Mt. 19:9).

Central to the issue of Jesus' teaching about human marriages, Jesus goes back to "the beginning" (Mt. 19:4-8; Gen. 1:27; 2:24) when God instituted marriage. He appeals to a time before God tolerated putting away or divorce, when "it was not that way" (Mt. 19:8). Jesus teaches the truth that always has been and always will be concerning marriage. People will continue to divorce and remarry, but it does not change the truth of God's Word "from the beginning." It really is that simple. Do we want to know how God wants marriage? Jesus says to go back to "the beginning" (Mt. 19:4, 8). With this understanding of the context prior to Mt. 19:9, we now address the issue of whether Jesus is giving permission to separate what God has joined together (Mt. 19:6) in a situation of fornication.

Under the Old Covenant:
For adultery = Death penalty (Lev. 20:10)
For fornication during betrothal = Death penalty (Deut. 22:23-24)


Theoretically, Jesus could have said:
"Whoever puts away his wife FOR FORNICATION (EPI PORNEIA) and marries another does not commit adultery."

This was not a lawful option. It would have been an act of disobedience to change the punishment for fornication from the death penalty to either putting away or divorce (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6). Rather, Jesus says, "Whoever puts away his wife NOT FOR FORNICATION (MH EPI PORNEIA) and marries another commits adultery" (Mt. 19:9).

Stated another way:

1. Under the Old Covenant fornication during betrothal and adultery in marriage was punishable by death (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:23-24).

2. It would have been a violation of God's law to change the penalty for fornication from death to putting away or divorce (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).

3. Jesus came to fulfill the law, to bring it to completion (Mt. 5:17-18).

4. The Old Covenant was not changed until Christ's death (Heb. 7:12; 8:4; 9:16-17).

Therefore, Christ did not change the Old Covenant under which he lived but gave corrective teaching, calling people back to God's will from the beginning (Mt. 19:6-9; Mk. 10:5-12).

It appears that:

1. Jesus gave clear and precise teaching to the crowds in the region of Judea beyond the Jordan (Mk. 10:1), giving permission for neither putting away nor divorce (please read Mk. 10:2-9).

2. After his definitive teaching, Jesus gave a conclusive summary to settle the matter: "In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. So He said to them, 'Whoever puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman puts away her husband and marries another, she commits adultery'" (Mk. 10:10-12).

3. Similarly, Jesus revealed the strength of God's Law and then immediately stressed the result of remarriage after putting away: "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. Everyone who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is put away from a husband commits adultery" (Lk. 16:17-18).

It does not appear that Jesus gives permission to divorce or remarry even for fornication. As one dear sister put it, there are no "words that say Jesus is for or against divorce for fornication. No words state that. We reason that with our thoughts. Maybe we shouldn't."

*See McFall, Leslie. "The Biblical Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage." Rev. Aug. 2014: 159.

The Truth About The Meaning Of "Denomination"
By Timothy Sparks

There is tremendous confusion about the term "denomination," even though we might hear the word used regularly. When a word is not found within Scripture, we must determine the meaning as defined by others who have done the necessary research to define a word properly. Therefore, we turn to a resource such as a dictionary. Naturally, we have to use some "scholarship" in order to substantiate our claims rather than defining a word to mean whatever we might want it to mean. Such is the case with the word "denomination," since it does not occur in standard English translations of God’s Word.

I once heard an instructor give his definition of "denomination." He said that it means "a part of a greater whole," primarily appealing to the term "denominator" since he wished to link "denomination" with "division." Certainly, the word "denominator" in a mathematical fraction implies division, and there is much division among religious denominations. However, an injustice is done to the definition of "denomination" since "division" is not synonymous with the primary, secondary, or tertiary definitions of "denomination." Had the instructor done his due diligence by examining the definition of "denomination," he would have known that authoritative sources give quite a different meaning.

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, "denomination" (a noun) and "denominate" (a verb) originate from the Latin word "denominare," which means, "to name, specify by name." The primary definition of "denominate" is "To give a name or appellation to; to call by a name, to name (orig. from or after something). Now usually with complement: To give (a thing) the name of . ., to call." Notice, in the definition, the significance of the word "name" since it is also an essential term in defining "denomination." The primary definition of "denomination" is "The action of naming from or after something; giving a name to, calling by a name." The secondary definition is "A characteristic or qualifying name given to a thing or class of things; that which anything is called; an appellation, designation, title." Now, observe that in regards to a mathematical denomination, such as a coin, the tertiary definition is "A class of one kind of unit in any system of numbers, measures, weights, money, etc., distinguished by a specific name." The fourth listed definition is similar to the preceding three: "A class, sort, or kind (of things or persons) distinguished or distinguishable by a specific name." We now come to the last listed definition: "A collection of individuals classed together under the same name; now almost always spec. a religious sect or body having a common faith and organization, and designated by a distinctive name."

In each definition we find the term "name." We might wonder within Scripture what "name" or "denomination" the Lord gave, if any, to his people, the church. Perhaps you have heard people speak of "scriptural names for the church." However, in each passage of Scripture we might examine, we will discover that the Lord never named (denominated) the church. Rather, we will find descriptive phrases of possession. The descriptive phrases within Scripture can be paralleled to our use of possessive phrases. For example, "The horse of Jimmy" is most commonly stated as "Jimmy’s horse." So, "the church (congregation/assembly) of God" (Acts 20:28) is to be understood, not as a name but as a description: "God’s church (congregation/assembly)." The same is true with "the churches (congregations/assemblies) of Christ" (Rom. 16:16): "Christ’s congregations (assemblies/churches)." In other words, within the New Testament there are descriptions, not names, indicating ownership. Christ and God own the church; the church belongs to God and Christ.

Examine the following descriptions of God’s people:

"the kingdom of Heaven" or "Heaven’s kingdom" (Mt. 16:19)
"the church in Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1; 11:22)
"who were of the Way" (Acts 9:2)
"the churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria" (Acts 9:31)
"the church in Cenchrea" (Rom. 16:1)
"the churches of the Gentiles" (Rom. 16:4)
"the church that is in their house" (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19)
"the church of God in Corinth" (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1)
"the church of God" (1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5)
"the body of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:16; Eph. 4:12)
"the churches of God" (1 Cor. 11:16; 2 Thess. 1:4)
"the body" (1 Cor. 12:18-25; Eph. 4:16; 5:23)
"Christ’s body" (1 Cor. 12:27)
"the church" (1 Cor. 12:28)
"the churches of the saints" (1 Cor. 14:33)
"the churches" (1 Cor. 14:34)
"the churches of Galatia" (1 Cor. 16:1)
"the churches of Asia" (1 Cor. 16:19)
"the churches of Macedonia" (2 Cor. 8:1)
"the churches of Judea" (Gal. 1:22)
"those who are of the household of the faith" or "the members of the family of the faith" (Gal. 6:10)
"the church, which is his body" (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23)
"members of the household of God" or "members of God’s family" (Eph. 2:19)
"the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Col. 1:13)
"the body, the church" (Col. 1:18)
"his body, which is the church" (Col. 1:24)
"the church that is in her house" (Col. 4:15)
"the church of the Laodiceans" (Col. 4:16)
"the church of the Thessalonians" (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1)
"the churches of God in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 2:14)
"the church in your house" (Philem. 2)
"the general assembly and church of the firstborn" (Heb. 12:23)
"God’s household, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim. 3:15)

While this list is not exhaustive of the descriptions found within the New Testament, these references are sufficient to show that the Lord did not denominate (name) the church. If the Lord had denominated (named) the church, then surely he would have addressed each congregation listed above by a particular name, such as "the Church of Christ in Corinth." Did you know that the specific phrase "church of Christ" or "Christ’s church" never appears within Scripture? We find only the phrase "churches of Christ" or "Christ’s churches" or even a better translation, "Christ’s congregations" (Rom. 16:16). Additionally, if God had decided to name the church, surely he would have addressed each of "the seven congregations in Asia" (Rev. 1:4) by that name, but no name is given, only descriptions identifying which congregation is being addressed (Revelation 2-3). While God named his disciples "Christians" (Acts 11:26), a name that appears two more times in the New Testament (Acts 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16) and alluded to at least once (Jas. 2:7), yet the church remains unnamed. We should also notice that the name "Christian" is always used as a noun, never as an adjective.

When people ask, "What is the name of the denomination you attend?," they are simply asking you to identify the name on the church building where you claim your "membership." Their use of the word "denomination" is completely in line with its definition since "denomination" is defined by the word "name." However, such a concept of "denomination" or "name" for the Lord’s people is foreign to the Scriptures. You simply will not find a name given to Christ’s body. So, why do denominations exist among us? As long as people unceasingly apply names to their religious groups, there will be denominations. No wonder the Lord prayed so fervently for unity--not among denominations--but among his disciples (Jn. 17:20-23). In the thematic statement of 1 Corinthians, Paul said, "Now I urge you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be completely joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10).

Paul addresses the issue of those within the congregation in Corinth who were applying names to themselves: "Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I truly am of Paul,’ ‘but I am of Apollos,’ ‘but I am of Cephas,’ ‘but I am of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you! Or were you immersed in Paul’s name?" (1 Cor. 1:12-13). It appears that there were those who, in modern terms, would have considered themselves to be "Paulites," others "Apollosites," others "Cephasites," and the only correct group "of Christ," who, if understood to have been genuinely "of Christ" would properly have been called "Christians." Paul clearly rebuked them for adopting the other names the Lord did not give. To say, "I’m a Christian" is in harmony with the Scriptures, but to say, "I’m of the Church of Christ" or "I’m Church of Christ" or "I’m a Church-of-Christer," or "I go to the Church-of-Christ Church" or even to use the phrase, "I go to the Church of Christ" is simply not within the boundaries of God’s Book.

Now that we know the truth about the meaning of "denomination," what can we conclude about the name of the group to which you or I might consider ourselves to belong? Let us consider the following:

(1) When we give the Lord’s church a name, we are doing something the Lord never did.

(2) Since God did not name the church, do you or I have the authority to do so?

(3) If we do not want to be a denomination, we must not fit the definition.

Here are some possible solutions to our dilemma:

(1) The church does not have to have a name. If the Lord had decided to name the church, he would have done so. God does not require us to have a sign for our buildings. During the first century, the church had no name, no building (they met in their houses), and no sign to indicate where they were gathering.

(2) If we must insist on having a sign for the buildings where we gather, rather than giving the church a name, would it be too much for us to have a sign more in harmony with what we find within Scripture, such as "Christians meet here" or "The church meets here"?

Then, rather than people designating us by a denominational name we’ve applied to ourselves, if they call us "Christians," we should strive to be all that the God-given name implies and requires (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16). [We would do well to search the Scriptures concerning "Who is a Christian?" A fascinating and challenging study would surely be unveiled.]

Remember, if we do not want to be a denomination, we must not fit the definition.

A Matter of Heaven and Hell
By Timothy Sparks

"What does the Scripture say" (Romans 4:3)? It is a matter of Heaven and Hell.

Jesus says, ". . . the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24). Jesus further states, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). We must know the truth and obey it in order to be freed from the shackles of sin and vain worship. Our souls depend on it. Paul speaks God's will concerning singing in worship:

"speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).

If these Scriptures authorized instrumental music in praise to God, then each individual in the congregation would have to play an instrument! God simply authorizes us to sing. Why would we want to add to God's will? A valuable lesson we can learn from the Old Testament is: Not preconceived ideas, but obedience to God's Word is what God requires (2 Kings 5:9-14).

God loves us more than we can understand. He gave His Son to die for our sins. God is worthy of our worship, as revealed in the New Testament. We should not seek to be entertained. We should want to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). When our worship pleases God, we glorify Him. God wants to bless us, and He will when we conform our lives to His great will. "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created" (Revelation 4:11).

Hear Him!
By Timothy Sparks

Those who are deeply concerned about divine and heavenly matters want to listen to Jesus and obey His words. Long before the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin, God revealed through Moses that a Prophet would come whom God would require people to hear and heed: "The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear . . . And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him" (Deuteronomy 18:15, 19). The Jews, who were curious about who John the Immerser was, asked John a series of questions concerning his identity. Among their questions they asked, "Are you the Prophet?" John answered, "No" (John 1:19-21).

In an interesting way and with very clear words, God removed any doubt about "the Prophet," specifically identifying Jesus as the Prophet whom Moses foretold would come and the One we should hear. When Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah were present with Him, the heavenly Father's voice boomed forth: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" (Matthew 17:5). The startled disciples, who fell to the ground on that occasion, lifted up their eyes and no longer saw Moses and Elijah . . . "they saw no one but Jesus only" (Matthew 17:8). Moses and Elijah faded from the scene, but Christ and His words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). We must keep our eyes permanently fixed on Jesus--"looking to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2)--and we must hear Him.

The mother of the Lord recognized the importance of hearing and obeying Jesus: "His mother said to the servants, 'Whatever He says to you, do it'" (John 2:5). Sadly, based on the Scriptures, most people will not do what Jesus says. According to Jesus--and contrary to popular opinion--the majority of people will not go to Heaven. They will choose the path of least resistance and follow the broad way to destruction: "there are many who go in by it" (Matthew 7:13). The way to Heaven is narrow and difficult, "and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14).

Jesus clearly said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Unfortunately, there are those who call Jesus "Lord" in vain: "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Jesus further stated, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24). Those who build on Jesus as their Rock will stand the test of time and temptation. Only fools refuse to do what Jesus says . . . and fools will fail (Matthew 7:26-27). In order to be a spiritual success, we must listen to Jesus.

Whether it is a matter concerning the weekly frequency of eating the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:26) or actively participating in the kind of singing that pleases God (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13)--or whatever the discussion may be--Jesus is the final authority (Matthew 28:18). Hear Him!